Private Christopher Byrne

1st Battalion Irish Guards,

Wounded in Action, France 1915,

From Drumcondra, Dublin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher from Dublin, enlisted, pre war, with the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards on the 16th of October 1912.

Following the outbreak of the Great War, 1st Battalion, The Irish Guards was deployed to France almost immediately, and they remained on the Western Front for the duration of the war. Christopher, in fact, was one of the first to go, his battalion landing at Le Havre on the 13th of August 1914 as part of the 4th (Guards) Brigade, 2nd Division.

The 1st Battalion was involved in fighting for the duration of ‘First Ypres’, at Langemark, Gheluvelt and Nonne Boschen. The 1st Battalion suffered huge casualties between November 1–8 holding the line against near defeat by German forces, while defending Klein Zillebeck.

In May 1915, the 1st Irish Guards took part in the Battle of Festubert, though did not see much action. Two further battalions were formed for the regiment in July. In September that year, the battalion, as well as the 2nd Irish Guards, who had reached France in August, took part in the Battle of Loos, which lasted from 25 September until early October.It was here I believe where Christopher was wounded in action. Both battalions spent the rest of 1915 in the trenches and did not fight in any major engagements.

This relative quiet period for the regiment was broken on 1 July 1916 when the Battle of the Somme began. The 1st Irish Guards took part in an action at Flers-Courcelette where they suffered severe casualties in the attack in the face of withering fire from the German machine-guns. The battalion also took part in the action at Morval, before they were relieved the by the 2nd Irish Guards.

The Irish Guards going up a communication trench. Elverdinghe, 30 July 1917.
Photo: http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//355/media-355114/large.jpg

In 1917 the Irish Guards took part in the Battle of Pilckem which began on the 31 July during the Third Battle of Ypres. The Irish Guards also took part in the Battle of Cambrai in that year, the first large use of the tank in battle took place during the engagement.] In 1918 the regiment fought in a number of engagements during the Second Battle of the Somme, including at Arras and Albert. The regiment then went on to take part in a number of battles during the British offensives against the Hindenburg Line. On 11 November 1918 the Armistice with Germany was signed. 

The sacrifice by the Irish Guards during the First World War, however, was immense. Over 2,300 officers and men had been killed and well over 5,000 wounded. The regiment was awarded 406 medals, including four VCs, during the Great War.

Christopher was discharged & returned to Dublin in February 1919, having served almost 5 years, surviving the savagary & bloodshed of the war in Europe.

2nd Lieutenant Douglas Dawson

16th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (2nd Co. Down Pioneers)

Wounded in France, July 1916

From Belfast, Aged 20

dawson1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Douglas from Ulsterville Avenue in Belfast, attested for the 16th Royal Irish Rifles in late 1914. They proceeded to France 0n the 13th February 1916. As part of the 36th (Ulster) Division, they were  concentrated near Flesselles, north of Arras. With training and familiarisation, including periods in the trenches with 4th Division in the front line north of the River Ancre near Albert. 36th (Ulster) Division took over the front line in early Spring.

During unseasonably polar conditions,through March & April, the Pioneers were often engaged in the construction and repair of military railways, in preparation for the upcoming ‘big push’ on the Somme.

daw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prior to the eventual attack on the 1st July, the 16th were responsible for constructing new assembly trenches, fixing damaged wiring, deepening certain trenches and building bomb-proof dugouts along the whole front line of the 36th Ulster Division.

The Battalion was billeted in defensive positions in Aveluy Wood, which was only about 1500 yards from the front line and well within enemy artillery range. Indeed the battalion settled down for the first night on arrival, only to suffer an enemy bombardment around 0230 so slit trenches had to be dug hurriedly for their own protection.

All work was to be completed by the 19th June but the commencement of the bombardment was delayed for various reasons with the attack eventually set for the 1st July 1916 – a day to become a source of great sorrow and pride for the people of Ulster when the outcome was eventually disclosed.

Courtesy: http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com
16 RIR Trench Railway – trolleys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The major decisions regarding the Somme offensive were made in March 1916 and all units now had new planned objectives. For the Pioneers it was a return to defensive work reinforcing existing wiring and trenches together with the construction of several lines of additional assembly trenches.

During the actual attack on the 1st July, the Battalion was in active support positions to move supplies forward, cut new connecting forward trenches to the German front line trenches and generally help the advancing troops. In some areas this was successful, but lack of committed fresh troops limited success whilst in other areas enemy troops were still in possession of targets and the men had to hold defensive positions against enemy counter attacks. The Ulster Division, having suffered about 5,500 casualties including killed and wounded, were withdrawn at 1800 that evening, but the 16th Pioneers had to work on supporting the replacement division until their eventual withdrawal on the 8th July 1916.

Prior to this month the war diaries had not reported monthly casualties but were now going to have to do so for many months to come. Casualties at the point of relief from the Somme sector were: 2 officers killed, 3 wounded and 5 broke down (later termed shell shocked). Douglas being one of these officers wounded at this time. Among the men 22 were killed and 159 wounded of which over 100 were invalided.

At the close of the first 9 months since arrival in France, the Battalion had fully earned their distinctive emblem of the crossed rifle and pick-axe.

We don’t know the extent of Douglas’s wounding. What we do know is that he recovered and went on to serve throughout the rest of the war. Finally being demobbed in April 1919.

Douglas Dawson's, Great War I.D. Bracelot
Douglas Dawson’s Great War I.D. Bracelet

 

 

Corporal Charles Lewis

7th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Attached 48th Trench Mortar Battery)

Killed in Action, 16th August 1916,

From Ballina, Co. Mayo,

Aged 20                                                                                                    Lew2

LewisCharles was born in Ballina, Co.Mayo in late 1896. He joined the 7th Battalion, The Royal Irish Rifles, of the  48th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division, in early 1915, before departing for Le Havre on the 20th December 1915, the division concentrated in the Bethune area.

August 1916 saw Charles & his pals in action during the Battle of the Somme. Charles was at this time attached to the 48th Trench Mortar Battery. Often the focus of infantry grumbling – for a front-line trench mortar was certain to draw enemy fire – the TM Batteries played an important part in gaining the ascendancy in both attack and defence.

Trench mortars were used in a variety of defensive and offensive roles, from the suppression of an enemy machine-gun, sniper post or other local feature, to the coordinated firing of barrages.

Loading a Trench Mortar Photo; www.longlongtrail.co.uk
Loading a Trench Mortar
Photo; http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the 16th of August whilst in action with his battery, employed in giving covering fire from Leipzig Redoubt for the infantry attack on Mouquet Farm and also long range fire towards Thiepval Village. Charles was killed instantly at his gun. He was killed alongside Rifleman James Duggan from Dunmurry. Co.Antrim.

Below is the Ballina Herald of August 24th detailing Charles’ death.

charlie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles was one of 4 brothers who fought during the Great War. He was the only one who did not return…

He is buried at BOIS-CARRE Military Cemetery, Haisnes

Courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org
Courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“OUR BOY
DUTY NOBLY DONE”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Private William Haughton

1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles,

Wounded in Action, Bois Grenier, 13th October 1915

From Dublin, aged 26

IMG_0001(2)

IMG_0002(7)William was born in Dublin in 1889. Coming from squalid conditions, he had spent all his life in tenements. At the outbreak of war he and his family were living in squalor at 22 Ellis Quay.

He enlisted for the Royal Irish Rifles on the 9th November 1914. He departed shortly after for France on active service, joining up with the 1st Battalion (25th Brigade in the 8th Division), after their action near Fromelles on 21st May 1915. Straight into trench life, William, was one of a draft of 5 Officers and 146 Other Ranks needed to reinforce a depleted battalion who had been suffering high casualties of late.

The battalion remainned in this quiet sector until the end of September and the it was on to Bois Grenier. The attack was conceived as an adjunct to the Battle of Loos. The aim was ‘to capture about 1200 yards of the German front line system opposite the re-entrant and link them up with our own line at the Well Farm and Le Bridoux salients, thereby both shortening and strengthening our position’.

Infantry of the Royal Irish Rifles Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
Infantry of the Royal Irish Rifles
Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

 

The following assault troops were used:- 2/Rifle Brigade, 2/Royal Berkshire and 2/Lincolnshire. 1/Royal Irish Rifles held the left of the line.

A ferocious battle for William and his pals. Under difficult conditions of heavy rain and mist, the battalion made swift progress capturing there objective together with the 2nd Lincs. However not all the Germans had succumbed here at Bridoux Fort. The second line was full of Germans and rifle fire was brisk. Eventually, under an avalanche of bombs, the Lincolns withdrew along with the Irish Rifles.

The chief reason for the failure to hold the German trench was the superiority of the enemy bombers, who threw a larger and heavier bomb than the British could throw. At 6pm, orders were received to remain in position for the night. Other casualties for the day were 2/Lt J.H.Butler (slightly wounded), 11 Other Ranks killed, 76 wounded and 15 missing. William had come through.

The battalion came out of the front line on October 1st to billets at Pont Mercier.

An Australian chaplain wearing the "Large Box Respirator" Bois Grenier Sector Courtesy en.wikipedia.org
An Australian chaplain wearing the “Large Box Respirator” Bois Grenier Sector 1915
Courtesy en.wikipedia.org

 

 

 

 

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The 1st Royal Irish Rifles were back in the line on the 13th. During this night,there was a lot of trench mortaring and rifle fire opposite Bridoux & Well Farm Salients. 1 officer and 9 men of a working party were wounded. One of these men was William Haughton. William received a Gunshot Wound to the thigh. During a somewhat peaceful time of trench life & having come through serious action a couple of weeks earlier, William’s war was at an end. A serious wound to one of his legs subsequently led to its amputation.

On his return to “Blighty”, it seems William spent nearly 9 months in hospital, recovering and recuperating, before finally being discharged on the 14th July 1916, returning to his parents home at 22 Ellis Quay in Dublin.

A group of soldiers in hospital uniform. For them the war was over! Courtesy of www.worldwar1postcards.com
A group of soldiers in hospital uniform. For them the war was over!
Courtesy of http://www.worldwar1postcards.com